If domestic cats are the most favored of all, tabby cats are the most popular of the cat color patterns. Tabbies come in stripes, whorls, swirls, dots and dashes, and are also allowed in the breed standards of over two dozen recognized cat breeds. Their colors range from red to cream, to black, blue, silver, brown, and tan. Cato, the cat pictured here, is a gray mackerel tabby cat.
Although there are many variations of each, the tabby pattern falls into four basic classes.
A fifth includes tabby as part of another basic color pattern, e.g. the "patched" tabby, which may be a calico or tortoiseshell cat with tabby patches (the latter is called a "torbie." Some pointed breeds also allow "tabby points" within their color standards. Is it any wonder the tabby cat is so ubiquitous? In fact, the gene for the abby pattern can be found in all domestic cats. Look at a "coal black" cat in the sun some day, and see if you can find the hidden tabby markings.
Tabby cats are almost as old as Mother Earth herself, the reason why we celebrate tabby cats in our March picture galleries when the earth is in full bloom of Spring. In fact, if you travel the world, you'll find tabby cats everywhere you look, from the tiny strays, which evolved to the Singapurra breed, to the stray cats on Cypress, the canals of Venice, and the streets of Rome, to pedigreed cats which found their origins in many countries:
- American Bobtail
- Egyptian Mau
- Javanese (Tabby Points)
- Maine Coon
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Scottish Fold
- Turkish Angora
For a complete list, see The Glorious Tabby.
The Magnificent "M"
One of the most consistent markings of tabby cats is the magnificent "M" centered on their foreheads just above the eyes.
This M is the stuff of legends.
- Named for Mau, the name which cats were called in ancient Egypt (likely the sound of "meow."
- Named after Mohammed, who treasured tabby cats
- Named after the Virgin Mary
- Named for a brown tabby cat (Beloved of Bast), my favorite explanation.
While some people may think of tabby cats as "common" because they are seen everywhere, those of us whose homes are graced by their presence, think of them as royalty, as befitting their roots. I wouldn't have it any other way, and neither would my three tabbies.